Legal Law

Police Warn that Posting Images of Thieves May Violate Their Privacy Rights – JONATHAN TURLEY

While Canada eviscerates the right to free speech and association, some are apparently holding firm on the privacy rights of accused felons to warn homeowners not to post videos of thefts.

In Quebec, the police are now warning citizens not to post their doorbell videos of package thieves because they are, in the words of the spokesmen, “presumed innocent.”

Notably, these are scenes captured in public and posted by homeowners who had packages stolen from their doorsteps.

For critics, it is a continuation of misplaced priorities and policies on crime including the statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that “you can’t use a gun for self-protection in Canada. It’s not a right that you have..”

It is true that you can be sued for defamation. However, that ordinarily requires fault. The police are arguing that conduct filmed on your property and visible from the street is protected by privacy even if the person is guilty of the crime.

If you use an image for commercial benefits, photos in public can pose risks. In 1998 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decision awarding $2000 to Pascale Claude Aubry against Éditions Vice-Versa for publishing a photo of her sitting on public steps without her knowledge. However, the court stressed that it was sold for commercial gain and had no newsworthy purpose.

Of course, deterring citizens from posting these images has a direct benefit for the police. These videos go viral and highlight the lack of enforcement and deterrence. The question is whether this is about the privacy interests of the thieves or the political interests of the police. We have seen police charge citizens for years for filming them in public. Those cases have largely been rejected.

Neighbors often shared descriptions and videos of local crime. The police is now suggesting that such images could now get them into hot water. Oh Canada.

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